(AUSTIN, Texas) — Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong faced a stunning and swift blow Monday from a federal judge in Texas who shot down Armstrong’s attempt to stop the doping case that threatens his legacy.
Armstrong’s legal team filed a federal suit Monday morning in the western district of Texas in an attempt to shut down the U.S. Anti- Doping Agency case against Armstrong.
But by late Monday, Judge Sam Sparks had already rejected the suit in a strongly worded order that said Armstrong appeared to be playing to the media more than to the legal system.
“This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong’s desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement, or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims,” Sparks wrote in the order.
Armstrong’s lawsuit had claimed USADA doesn’t have jurisdiction in his case, while also accusing the agency’s CEO, Travis Tygart, of waging a personal vendetta against Armstrong.
The stakes in this case are huge for Armstrong and the clock is ticking. If he doesn’t respond to doping charges by Saturday — and ask for an arbitration hearing to fight the accusations — a lifetime ban will go into place and he could face the loss of his Tour de France titles.
If he does go forward with the proposed hearing, USADA plans to put at least 10 former teammates under oath with detailed allegations that Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs and strongly encouraged others on his team to do the same.
Neither scenario is particularly attractive for Armstrong’s legal team, which argues that former teammates have been coerced into testifying against the Tour champ. This lawsuit was an attempt to at least slow the case down, if not to do away with it altogether.
The Armstrong lawsuit called USADA a “kangaroo court.” It charged that “the process [USADA] seeks to force upon Lance Armstrong is not a fair process and truth is not its goal.” The lawsuit also claimed “Defendants would strip Mr. Armstrong of his livelihood, his seven Tour de France titles and the many other honors he has won.”
To this, Sparks wrote: “… the bulk of these paragraphs contain ‘allegations’ that are wholly irrelevant to Armstrong’s claims and which, the Court must presume, were included solely to increase media coverage of this case, and to incite public opinion against Defendants.”
The suit was dismissed without prejudice, and Armstrong’s lawyers can re-file within 20 days.
Sources close to the investigation say the real goal of the Armstrong claim was to try to bankrupt USADA by tying it up with expensive litigation while at the same time putting the agency on trial.
“This is the route hardcore dopers always take. They play by their own set of rules,” said one source.
USADA has dealt with similar litigation with other athletes and expected this move.
Officials wouldn’t comment on the Armstrong filing, but issued a brief statement from Tygart, saying in part: “Like previous lawsuits aimed at concealing the truth, this lawsuit is without merit and we are confident the courts will continue to uphold the established rules which provide full constitutional due process and are designed to protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of sport.”
In the meantime, Armstrong’s former team doctors who are also facing USADA charges have mostly remained quiet. They have until Monday night to respond to their own charges or face sanctions that could include a lifetime ban from participating in sport. His longtime coach Johan Bruyneel has asked for an extension and like Armstrong has until Saturday.
Armstrong, who has previously called the charges against him a “vendetta,” refused to comment on the case his lawyers filed Monday.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sam Turner, Deseret News